Jupiter

Here is another little known secret – I sometimes wish I had learned astrophysics in school rather than business/accounting. Strange, yes. Let me explain.

When I was on maternity leave with my second child, I found my brain yearning for some intellectual stimulation. I was happy and content being a full-time mother for the year, but did want some mental exercises. So I started in on the literary classics. You know the bunch – Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Scarlet Letter, Tale of Two Cities, Emma, Crime and Punishment, etc. I consumed about one a week for a while there. I was really nerdy about it too, looking up the Coles notes online, to learn about the hidden symbolism and allegories.

After a while the passion for the classics took a backseat, as I came across a series of shows  about planet Earth and its history. I am talking billions of year’s history here, like in the formation of the Earth and all its stages. I was really interested in it, so I dug deeper. I learned that the Earth was 4.5 billion years old, and for a billion years or so, it had no life at all. For another 1.5 billion years, it just had only cyano bacteria, which as it turns out, are responsible for the oxygen we now have in the atmosphere. Another 1.5 billion years went by and there was nothing but single and multi-celled organisms. Only after this, in the last 500 million years or so, did the great tree of life we now have on Earth flourish.

I learned also about the other planets and moons in our solar system. I was intrigued by Europa, a moon of Jupiter that is covered in ice. Apparently it has oceans of water beneath, kept liquid by the heat created by the tidal forces from Jupiter’s massive gravity. There is also Titan, a moon of Saturn, which is the only other object in the solar system other than Earth to have stable bodies of liquid on the surface. The Cassini-Huygen spacecraft landed on Titan in 2005 and found hills, rivers and plains. Could either of these moons support life, even in bacteria form?

Then I learned about how our solar system is one of only billions in the Milky Way galaxy and how the Milky Way galaxy is among billions in the Universe. Where does this put Earth? A tiny speck, that’s where. If the Universe was the size of the Earth, then the Earth would be the size of a grain of sand (my analogy). It is so tiny, so insignificant in the grand scheme.

So why are we are so fortunate to have it? Do we even realize its worth, how rare it is? What if we are the only planet that has life, among the billions and billions out there? What if we are extraordinarily special? If this is the case, why are we not better stewards of this miracle?

At night I can stand on my driveway and look to the south and see Jupiter. It is appears as a massively bright star. It outshines every other star in the sky, as it has for several months now. These days when I look at it, I can see that it has a crescent shape. I can tell with the naked eye, how the sun is currently shining upon it. It is 900 million kilometers (560 million miles) away. Yet I can see it, standing on my driveway. What other mysteries do the other stars hold? What is out there?

It reminds me how small we are, how lucky we are to have this one world, one home:

One light, one sun
One sun lighting everyone
One world, turning
One world turning everyone
One world, one home
One world home for everyone
Raffi

 

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2 thoughts on “Jupiter

  1. You are not strange for wanting to learn astrophysics! I absolutely hate how our social culture finds curiosity, and the gumption to actually go learn and do the research yourself something to be ashamed of! It is natural for us to want to learn about the world around us – why do we live on this planet? What else is out there? It makes complete sense to me.

    I think where there’s ice or water, there must be some kind of bacteria or microbial life present. So it seems likely that there is some kind of life on Titan and Europa. I’ve thought about the life beyond quite a bit recently – I watched a documentary on Mars that showed deep canyons and imprints of ponds that may have had ice or water in its past. Mars is a dead planet now, but it was once very active and volcanic. Was life abundantly present at one point in its history?

    • Thanks Lynn! It is such an interesting question isn’t it? Are we the only life miracle or not? It seems like there has to be other life out there, given the grand scale of the universe. But what if we are “it”?

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